The South African cricket team put on a thrilling batting display to overcome India’s challenging total of 200 with seven wickets and two deliveries to spare in the first Twenty20 match in Dharamsala on Friday, taking a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
In a high-scoring encounter played before a sell-out crowd of 23,000 at the picturesque venue, the tourists chased down India’s challenging 199-5 with relative ease. India’s innings after being sent in to bat revolved around a superb 106 off 66 balls by opener Rohit Sharma, ably supported by Virat Kohli’s 27-ball 43.
But the Proteas, helped by the Indian bowlers’ inability to grip the ball in the evening dew, made light of the stiff target following a rip-roaring opening stand of 77 from 53 balls between Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers.
(For match scores, statistics and commentary, click here)
Amla hit 36 off 24 balls and de Villiers contributed a typically aggressive 51 from 32 deliveries that included seven fours and a six. India claimed three wickets for 15 runs to reduce South Africa to 95-3, but JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien stepped in to hit a match-winning partnership of 105 that came off just 55 balls.
Left-handed Duminy remained unbeaten on a 34-ball 68 that was studded with seven sixes, three off them from successive deliveries by left-arm spinner Axar Patel, while Behardien chipped in with 32 not out.
Sreenath Aravind, a 31-year-old left-arm seamer from Karnataka, made a forgettable international debut as he was hammered for 44 runs in 3.4 overs, including a last-over six by Duminy. He did scalp the wicket of Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis, however.
In India’s innings, Sharma plundered 12 boundaries and five sixes in his maiden T20 century, displaying a spectacular array of strokes all round the ground. Kohli became the first Indian batsman to score 1,000 T20 runs as he blazed his way to three sixes and a four.
The pair put on 138 off 74 balls for the second wicket after Shikhar Dhawan was run out for three attempting a second run.
India were coasting at 160-1 in the 16th over before the tourists hit back with four wickets in the final overs.
The second match will be played in Cuttack on Monday and the third in Kolkata next Thursday.
South Africa will also play five one-day internationals and four Tests during their 10-week tour of India.